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Posts Tagged ‘Philippians 4:11’

When I was a young girl, my family lived near Chicago in a three-bedroom, one bath home. One car parked in the driveway; there was no garage. My brother and I dreamed of owning an in-ground swimming pool but had to settle for the crowded, over-chlorinated conditions of the community pool.

 

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If someone had told me, “Nancy, when you grow up you will get married, have three children, and live in Florida for forty years. Every home will have two bathrooms and a garage. You’ll eventually own two cars, too. But, best of all, three of your homes will have a swimming pool in the backyard.”

 

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(Sometimes we enjoyed a bigger pool — the Gulf or Atlantic.)

 

I would have thought, Unbelievable! When all those heavenly things happen, then I’ll be happy and content.

Ah, but during those forty years in Florida I remember thinking on more than one occasion: If only this heat and humidity would let up. It’s like a furnace out there. Or, Why can’t these kids just get along with each other and give me some peace? Or, Houseguests are coming; gotta clean those bathrooms today. Ugh.

Contentment can be an elusive quality. No sooner do we possess one long-desired item, we discover another acquisition to wish for. No sooner have we achieved one level of success, we’re already reaching for the next—with a sideways glance at our neighbor who’s acquired or accomplished more than we have.

We know what scripture tells us: “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6).

 

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Our spirits sense the truth of it and recognize the gain to be had when craving, grasping, and unrest give way to peace of mind and tranquility of spirit.

But how?

Contentment is a choice of perspective. I can choose to affirm and celebrate my:

  • Possessions.  I have more than enough.
  • Position.  I have experienced more than enough.
  • Personhood.  I am more than enough the way God made me, with my particular personality traits, gifts, and abilities.

Like Paul, I can learn to be content by choosing again and again the proper perspective (Philippians 4:11).

 

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However.

There is one area where contentment is not desirable: in the spiritual realm. I never want to become content with what I already know about God or be satisfied with the current level of intimacy between my Heavenly Father and me.

I want to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus (2 Peter 3:18).

 

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That’s an opportunity for a lifetime. Think of it: we never reach the end of his magnificence and influence. There is always greater knowledge to understand, more wonder to explore, more splendor and growth to experience.

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Lord, God, may I not look right or left at what others have, or what others have accomplished, or what gifts and talents they display. Keep me mindful of my utmost desire: to know you more intimately, follow you more closely, and live in the contentment of your sufficiency for everything.

 

Art & photo credits:  www.ancestory.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.youtube.com; http://www.pinterest (2).

 

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“The land is lit with autumn blaze.”

–Helen Hunt Jackson (1830-1885)

I’ve been anticipating these few weeks of October ever since we moved back to the Midwest in June—the gilding on tree-covered hillsides, the crimson coats on sumac trees, and, of course, the swaths of gold and vermilion among the maples.

The trees appear dressed for a grand party!

Indeed, autumn was the season I missed most during our forty years in Florida.

So Friday afternoon I sat on our second-story deck, to observe more closely the magnificent display in our back yard. You see, a shallow woods stands sentry between the houses on our street and the houses behind us. Among the tree-fellows, chestnut, elm, oak, and others stretch their colorful arms heavenward.

But already the trees are beginning to lose their leaves.

Elm leaves somersault while they plummet, flashing sparks of sunlight from their luminous topsides.

Oak leaves drift downward, gracefully zigzagging side to side.

But whether they tumble or drift, the leaves of all deciduous trees will eventually fall, having fulfilled their purpose: photosynthesizing light, absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen.

As human beings, we, too, have purpose to our existence: to live for the praise of God’s glory (Ephesians 1:11).  What an honor is ours, to inspire others to give praise to the King of the universe.

And how might we do that?

  1. Reflect God’s character, like the elm leaves flashing in the sunlight. Wherever we are, whatever we’re doing, we can shine as lights (Matthew 5:14)–offering assistance or a listening ear, being a positive voice and example, exercising self-control and patience.
  1. Give praise to God at every opportunity. As tree leaves fall, the lacey branches are exposed, all reaching upward toward the sunlight. Our hearts should be raised toward the Light of Life, the Son of God.

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(“My lips will glorify you.  I will praise you as long as I live,  and in your name I will lift up my hands” — Psalm 63:3-4)

We can:

  • Praise him in the morning for the opportunities of the day ahead.
  • Praise him in the afternoon for the blessings and accomplishments already enjoyed.
  • Praise him in the evening for his guidance and care throughout the day, his strength for the challenges, and the blessing of rest yet to come.
  1. Be content (Philippians 4:11).  God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1:3).  Begin to name those blessings and note how your heart begins to swell with elation–blessings like:
  • relief of forgiveness
  • liberation from guilt
  • assurance of hope
  • confidence of access to his presence
  • certainty of eternal life.

(How long might the list grow if we continued?)

Just as autumn blazes around us, may our hearts blaze to live for the praise of God’s glory!

(Photo credits:  www.galleryhip.com; http://www.media-cache-akO.pinimg.com.)

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Today I submit a few tidbits you might find thought-provoking, maybe even helpful.

1. “Circumstances are like a mattress. If we get under them, we will suffocate. If we get on top of them we will rest” (Arnold Prater).

A pillowtop mattress (U.S. size "queen")

How do we get out from under circumstances? Most of the time we can’t pry ourselves out. The circumstances are outside our sphere of control.

But we can praise our way out. We can praise our all-knowing God who’s never caught by surprise. He has known from the beginning of time that this situation would arise.

We can also praise our powerful God with whom all things are possible. In the time it takes to say, “Be gone,” God can remove those troubling circumstances.  Sometimes he does.

But just as miraculous? The way he can uphold us—lovingly and continually–while the circumstances continue. I have known people carrying great burdens of health problems, family crises, and ongoing relational struggles. Yet their lives are characterized by joy and peace.

I’m thinking of one friend in particular who’s now with Jesus. You’d never know the heartache she endured to look at her. Lynn* was always calm, always smiling.

More examples?

Ava*, who smiled her way through breast cancer—the chemo, the surgery, the radiation, the uncertainty, the pain.

Debbie*, who lost her soul-mate husband to cancer, after forty-plus years of marriage. She has depended on Jesus for strength and peace—and continued to serve him with passion and joy.

Jim*, who hasn’t been able to find steady work after being laid off. Yet he maintains a positive attitude and a delightful sense of humor, knowing God will provide.

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No doubt you know of people dealing with thick mattresses of circumstance. But they’re not underneath either; they’re resting in God alone (Psalm 62:1).

Oh, Lord, forgive me for moments of self-pity. At the first little petty thought, prick my conscience with remembrances of these saints who have learned to be content in spite of their circumstances (Philippians 4:11).

*(Names have been changed.)

2. “My mind is like a sieve, but at least it’s getting cleaned.”

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I heard this comment from a pastor on the radio, and had to heartily agree. I can read the Bible and other Christian books by the hour. But ask me the next day what I read, and chances are I won’t be able to tell you much.

I can listen to Christian radio, but again, too little of what I hear sticks in my memory.

Such lack of retention used to bother me greatly until I heard this pastor shine a positive light on the problem. I may not remember all the information of a book or sermon, but the influence of the words has its purifying effect on my mind and spirit.

At least while I’m reading or listening, my mind is occupied by what is noble and right (Philippians 4:8)! And that’s a good thing.

Thank you, Father, for renewing my mind even when my memory fails me. Although I might forget the exact words, their effect gives me strength and perseverance. Thank you that “the unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple” (Psalm 119:130)—including this simple woman with a memory like a sieve.

3. “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit” (Aristotle).

What are some things that we repeatedly do that create excellence? Possibilities include: Bible study, prayer, praise, gratitude, self-discipline, singing praise songs and hymns, and uplifting conversation.

English: Personal bible study Português: Estud...

And what are some things that we repeatedly do that are not creating excellence? Too much screen time. Negative thinking. Gossip. Overeating. Self-indulgence.

Oh, Lord, help me strive for excellence in the choices I make. I want to have a positive impact on others and please you.  I don’t want to waste my life on trivial pursuits. Keep me mindful of this truth: Out of excellence will grow peace, contentment, strength and joy.

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